Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In Retrospect: Ravenloft--The Created

I don't care what people say, I think dolls and puppets are kinda scary. It's like they might come alive and attack you. That's the basic premise of Ravenloft module RM2 The Created, by Bruce Nesmith. It's up on D&D Classic now for a decent price. Which is why I'm doing a retrospective/review on it.

Here's the obligatory SPOILER ALERT:

If you mix an evil version of Pinocchio with Children of the Corn (both 1984 film and story by Stephen King), and you will have the essence of this module.

The player-characters come to Odaire, a town with distinct Italian Renaissance feel, which is celebrating Bambeen, a spring holidary honoring children. Suddenly, and perhaps unexpectedly, a murder takes place. Soon the PC discover that evil puppets are the culprits. They head to the theatre, since its the mostly likely place more evil marionettes ("carrionettes") and their master will be, and get ambushed. If they survive this encounter, they still have to track down Maligno, the evil

The player-characters come across a town which is having a festival. Suddenly, a murder takes place and the town begins to get pulled into Ravenloft. They quickly discover that evil puppets are going around killing adults. The most likely place to go is the theater. Unfortunately for the characters, it's a trap! Even if they fight their way out, they have to still track down Maligno, the evil leader of the carrionettes through the streets of the town, while the carrionettes start talking over. No matter what, all of the PCs will eventally get captured by the Carrionettes and have their souls put into marrionette bodies. 

Sounds cool, right? Sounds horrifying? The characters spend the rest of the adventure trying to find their own bodies again to reverse the process, before continuing the hunt of Maligno. There's even a neat scene where the characters have to navigate through a toy shop full of evil animated toys. Well, in RPGs there's a fine line between horror and absolute frustration.

I ran this adventure a long time ago, and at first it remember it being a decent module. But as I flipped through it, the memories came back, and I recall my players not liking it at all. It's not hard to see why, its one huge railroad. No matter what, even if they do their best in trying to capture and kill Maligno, he's not meant to be killed. The carrionettes will eventually overwhelm the PCs. In many ways, the adventure really doesn't start until the characters wake up as carrionettes, making everything before that, in my opinion, a waste of time.

Is this module a complete waste? Absolutely not. I like the premise of evil dolls taking over a town...

So here's how I'd run it today:
--Forget about trying to instill fear and horror, run it as a joke module. No, seriously. Your players are probably going to crack jokes and quotes anyway about evil dolls attacking people ("My name is Talking Tina, and I'm going to kill you."), so you might as well playing the fun aspect to the hilt. Borrow stuff from the Chuckie movies. Oddly enough, by acknowledging the humor you be able to accentuate the horror.

--Don't even bring in the whole Ravenloft stuff. In the module, once the town gets pulled into Ravenloft, the streets wrap back upon themselves. Just ignore that. If the characters want to leave the town, let them. Instead, just have a plain old mysterious fog to dissuade them.

--The characters should only become marionettes if they failed miserably, or are just careless. Heck, if you doing this as a one-shot, you might just start the module with the characters already as marionettes.

--Role play Maligno like Isaac from Children of the Corn, quoting scripture and everything.

--Play the theme music from Gremlins when the carrionettes start going around killing people... 

--Follow this by some ultraviolent music from A Clockwork Orange when they face down Maligno.

Another alternative is to have the PCs enter the town in the aftermath of Maligno's rise, sort of drawing upon what happens in Children of the Corn. The characters come across the tattered remnants of a festival in Odaire, which seems completely abandoned. Some children attack them, and then run away. And, at first, players might think that it is a Children of the Corn scenario--until they encounter Maligno and the carrionettes.

The Created is an example of a good idea with faulty execution. Some players might not mind the railroad, but my players did back in the day. There's still things worth salvaging from this module to make it even better. It comes down to making the adventure your own.

Finally, here's Homer Simpson getting attacked by an evil Krusty the Klown doll!

[Awww... they cut off the ending where Marge calls up the manufacturer and says: "Your doll is trying to kill my husband!" But she gets put on hold and has to listen to: "Everybody loves a clown, so why don't you?"]


  1. I am not very familiar with ravenloft, but in 4th edition there is a mechanic found in the manual of the plains talking about how there are domains that form in the shadowfell that once players enter they can not leave. I kinda pictured it being like the players see a castle off in the distance and feel drawn towards it. If they choose to ignore it and keep walking they can. When they turn around to look at the castle it remains the same distance away in the background as if they havent traveled anywhere.

  2. That'd be like Ravenloft, more or less.

  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smile_Time

    Characters as puppets was also a classic episode of Angel.

    Dragon magazine issues have been taken down over at Archive.org. It was too good to last.

  4. I remember Smile Time, that was great. I'll have to watch again with the power of Netflix.

    As for Dragon: yeah, once I saw they had 4e issues archived I knew it was only a matter of time. Still, it was a good run, I supposed a lot people got their downloads in.


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